My personal perspective on libertarianism. Apologies for its length and lack of links. Libertarianism. It sounds so appealing. A bit like when the chiropractor tells you that your body can heal itself, with just a little tweaking. We can take care of*ourselves well enough, all the government really does is get in our way (damn speeding ticket) and take our money for the privilege to boot. Why do we need it and its annoying red tape and intrusiveness?*Perhaps it deserves a closer look. We are told that the federal government is too big and, partly as a consequence, confiscates too much of the "fruits of our labor" in taxes. This argument is not without merit. Yet, where do we decide to cut? We will hear things like DOE, EPA, DHS, SEC and, of course, the MIC (Pentagon). Because a free market will regulate itself and provide us with the same services as the government, only more efficiently. But is this true? This is a difficult question. Education is a good place to start. It would appear that my public high school diploma from 30+ years ago is not too far behind the pedagogical value of a contemporary BA, so one might assume that public education is on a downward slide. Private schools do generally tend to produce higher-achieving students, but they do so by being selective. Given what they are tasked with, public schools do a remarkable job for the price. The idea that private schools could make up for the absence of public education at a similar cost is unsupportable at best. Turning it over to the free market is a recipe for simply allowing tens of millions of students to fall through the cracks, because, in a libertarian paradise, private schools could not be forced to take students as that would be undue regulation. Americans in general are ignorant enough as it is without this to make things worse. Yes, there is waste in the government, but how bad is it? Is it worse than what business generates, in terms of excessive profit taking and, in the case of public services, the inevitable duplication of services that a competitive market would yield? Are we really wasting our money more by paying taxes than we would by utilizing enterprise? And how does the rate of business failure figure into the formula? These are vexing questions that cannot be clearly addressed with ideology and theory. But the most important thing to consider is freedom. How lovely that ideal does ring in our ears. The libertarian ideal of freedom is that we should be allowed to do as we please, as long as we are not causing harm to others. On reflection, though, it becomes a difficult line to discern, what we can actually do without infringing on others' rights. Realistically, my right to swing my fist ends long before the tip of your nose. Here is the greatest weakness of the libertarian ideal. Harm, intentional or not, can be hard to discover. It can be well separated from its cause, both in time and in space. But we must be free, so the harm will always be dealt with when it is discovered, almost certainly after the fact. If you think the nation is sue-happy today, imagine dealing with the results of other people's freedom. And then cleaning up after them. Red tape may be irksome, but fixing a mess is almost always more trouble than preventing it from happening in the first place. So, the libertarian paradise, on close examination, looks pretty darn hellish, really. Which is not to say that the ideas libertarians put forth should be rejected out of hand. We are clearly at a bad pass, and no one seems to truly know how to fix it. All the ideas need to be poured into the mix and given due consideration. Only then, after finding common ground that we can all disagree on, can we start to make things better. In a real democracy, there are no winners.